Focusing on the why of the click

“We have only a surface-level appreciation of what motivates people and why they behave in a particular way.”

The newsroom of 2016 has screens of story metrics. Editors’ inboxes are full of data dashboards. Numbers play a part in the news meeting.

sarah-marshallWe may understand the lifecycle of a story, but how much do we understand what motivates our audiences?

  • What makes a reader return to a site every day?
  • Analytics can tell us that people visit a homepage without clicking on a story. But how are readers consuming news? By glancing at headlines and feeling informed? Are they instead overwhelmed or disinterested?
  • What role does emotion play in how we read, watch or explore?

This is the year we build on our data-guided decisions and embrace a reader-centric approach.

We are drowning in data. We have an in-depth understanding of story metrics, and we are starting to get smarter when it comes to recognizing reader interests. But we have only a surface-level appreciation of what motivates people and why they behave in a particular way.

Put simply: We know how to make readers click, we rarely understand why they do.

If we can better understand the people we rely on — our audiences — we can create better user experiences and products.

Sarah Marshall is is audience engagement editor for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at The Wall Street Journal.

Trushar Barot   API or die

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights